Home sales throughout the San Fernando Valley picked up during March from the February total yet remained behind year-ago figures as the local resale market continued to gradually improve, the Southland Regional Association of Realtors reported Tuesday, April 19.
A total of 544 single-family homes closed escrow last month, down 8.4 percent from March 2010, yet 41.3 percent ahead of the February tally. Condominium sales of 215 units were 1.9 percent better than March 2010 and up 39.6 percent from this February. Home sales are up 68.4 percent and condos 104.8 percent higher than the record lows for this cycle that were set in January of 2008.
“No question, there’s still considerable uncertainty out there, yet the local market is slowly but surely getting better,” said Fred Sabine, president of the Association. “Plenty of people want to buy a home, yet some are letting an opportunity slip away while they for a sign that the economy has fully healed.”
Even with recent hikes in interest rates, home loans remain at near historic lows while homes are the most affordable they have been in many years.
The median price of the 544 homes sold last month came in at $370,000, down 7.5 percent from a year ago and off 5.6 percent from this February. The condominium median price of $220,000 was up 2.8 percent from March 2010 and 10.1 percent above February. Both median prices are up from their record lows reported in February and May 2009 — 8.9 percent higher for homes and up 18.9 percent for condos.
“Ongoing concerns about the local, state and national government budgets and jobs fueled consumer concerns enough to cause some buyers to hesitate,” said Jim Link, the Association’s chief executive officer. “They seem to be looking for concrete signs from politicians about the economy, while also hoping that lenders will be more responsive to their needs.”
Link and Sabine said Realtors are leading a campaign to make home loans more readily available while also striving to speed transactions involving short sales, where a lender agrees to allow the sale of a home for less than what is owed. Foreclosures are diminishing in number yet quick action by lenders on short sales would help beleaguered owners, limit losses to lenders, and speed the healing of the market and communities.
There were 3,059 properties listed for sale at the end of March throughout the San Fernando Valley, down 1.0 percent from a year ago. At the current pace of sales the active inventory represents a 4.0-month supply, slightly below the desired 5- to 6-month supply that represents a balanced market. For comparison, there were nearly 15,000 active listings during the recession of the 1990s, which represented a 17.6-month supply.
Pending escrows — a measure of future resale activity — suggest the market will remain soft even as the spring home buying season gets underway. A total of 1,076 open escrows were reported at the end of March, down 15.4 percent from the 1,272 pendings of March 2010. Condo and single-family home sales typically dip in February only to gradually rise until peaking for the year in June or July.
The Southland Regional Association of Realtors® is a local trade association with more than 10,000 members serving the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys. SRAR is one of the largest local associations in the nation.
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